Many of us have heard about the importance of calcium in a healthful diet. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, taking up about two percent of our body weight. Typical college students, between the ages of 17 and 20 or older, are at an age at which their bones are still growing, and their peak bone strength/density is still developing. Calcium is a key ingredient in bone growth and density. It is also important for teeth, heart, muscles and nerves (including those found in the brain). Therefore, it is beneficial to review information about calcium.
Which foods have calcium?
- Dairy products—milk, cheese and yogurt
- Dark green leafy vegetables—broccoli, collard greens, bok choy, turnip greens and kale
- Some nuts—almonds especially
- Fish with bones—salmon and sardines
- Calcium fortified foods—orange juice, bread, cereal, tofu products, and soy milk
How much calcium should one consume? For someone aged 14 to 18, 1300 mg/day are recommended. For someone 19 to 50, 1000 mg/day are recommended. Here are some suggestions for acquiring these amounts:
- One cup (8 oz.) skim milk = 300 mg
- One cup (8 oz.) of plain skim yogurt = 450 mg
- One cup (8 oz.) of fruit-flavored yogurt = 350 mg
- One cup (8 oz.) of collard greens = 350 mg
- Three ounces of sardines, canned (with bones) = 325 mg
Optimum absorption of calcium is also reliant upon the timing of ingesting other minerals. Iron, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus all can potentially interfere with calcium absorption. Lack of vitamin D limits the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D can already be found in many dairy foods, but it can also be obtained from sun exposure.
Many people believe they are too busy to think about nutrition. But, if you cannot eat regularly because of your schedule, it can be beneficial to keep an available stash of yogurt or bags of veggies to grab on-the-go. If possible, always drink milk instead of pop.
Calcium is best absorbed when it is found in food sources, not supplements. It is recommended that calcium intake is spread out throughout the course of the day, since the maximum amount of calcium that can be absorbed in one sitting is 500 mg.
For more information on calcium, see these Web resources:
Dairy Council of California Online Calcium Quiz:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
National Osteoporosis Foundation: http://nof.org/foods